The Art of Giving

Photo from TED.com/James Duncan Davidson

Photo credit: TED.com/James Duncan Davidson

They say Christmas is the season for giving, and Amanda Palmer’s fans seem to be proof.

Amanda Palmer has become something of a polarizing figure in recent years, which at least means she’s getting noticed. She used Kickstarter to fund her most recent album, raising over $1 million, and then used musicians donating their services her tour to create The Grand Theft Orchestra with which she played on her tour stops in addition to a few regulars.

Even as she was vilified in some circles for taking advantage of those musicians by not paying them with money because of their desire to play with her and for the exposure, she gave a TED talk called “The Art of Asking” about her experiences and what it meant to her to become willing to ask others to help, including the funding for her album.

That talk is one of the most watched ever on the TED website with over 6.2 million views, and it turned into a book deal. She spent much of 2014 writing and editing the book, and “The Art of Asking, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help” was released Nov. 11 and made the New York Times Bestseller list for nonfiction. (Maybe it didn’t hurt that one of her main editors was husband Neil Gaiman.)

Part of the unique relationship she has with her fans is through Twitter, where she interacts and responds frequently. Those fans sometimes wind up making connections with each other thanks to her and the open atmosphere she promotes online as well as in person. It’s led more than a few times to fans giving other fans rides to shows, extra tickets or even places to crash afterward.

Followers of her account in mid-November (and beyond) were flooded with retweets of her fans happily clutching their preordered copies of her book, many of the autographed variety. There was at least one and perhaps a few people who noted that they would love to be posting their own pics, but simply couldn’t afford to buy the book right away and looked forward eagerly to the day they could.

Then something amazing happened. Fans who had the book and were already finished it offered to send their copy on to another fan who hadn’t had the chance to buy it yet. Others offered to buy additional copies of the book for fans who couldn’t afford them, with would-be readers sending their Amazon wish list as a way to get it to them. Some suggested a sort-of lending tree where the book would be passed around from fan to fan so all could read it as quickly as possible.

This kind of outpouring of support can happen with devoted fans of an artist or author, but seems perfectly appropriate for Amanda Palmer. Her book is dedicated to further exploring the notions of asking and giving in relation to art, and her fans followed by taking the next step and creating an atmosphere of giving and making others comfortable enough to ask.

That’s pretty freaking cool if you ask me. Just like Amanda Palmer.

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